Midwest universities canceling classes due to the polar vortex

  • A number of colleges in the Midwest, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Ball State University, are canceling classes as the polar vortex is expected to sweep across the region.
  • Thousands of college students across the Midwest are petitioning their universities to cancel classes.
  • The Midwest will be the hardest-hit area, with a life-threatening wind chill bringing temperatures down as low as minus 50 in the Chicago area and northern Illinois by Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service reports.
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Several universities in the Midwest said they are canceling Wednesday classes in anticipation of an expansion of the polar vortex that will likely bring some cities their coldest weather in two decades.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has canceled classes only a handful of times in the past few decades, sent an email to students and faculty canceling classes from Tuesday evening through Wednesday. The college town is expecting a high of minus 8 F and wind chills of minus 35 F.

Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana, where the National Weather Service anticipates the low getting to minus 41 F, also canceled Wednesday classes.

Other state institutions closing campuses late Tuesday and throughout Wednesday include the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Minnesota, the University of North Dakota, the University of South Dakota and Iowa State University. The University of Michigan said it will make its decision later today.

The Midwest will be the hardest-hit area, with a life-threatening wind chill bringing temperatures down as low as minus 50 in the Chicago area and northern Illinois by Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service reported, according to Reuters.

Students at other schools that have yet to announce closures are demanding classes be canceled due to the frigid weather.

A petition on Change.org called for classes to be canceled at Indiana University, where wind chills are expected to range from minus 20 F to minus 40 F. As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 25,000 people have signed the petition.

"These weather conditions are extremely unsafe for both students and faculty members on IU's Bloomington campus," wrote petitioner Josh Bromberg. "The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Chill Warning for Indiana and it's time for the university to follow suit and take action."

Indiana University's winter weather policy states, "Staff and Temporary employees are expected to use their best judgment if adverse weather creates extreme travel hazards when traveling to or from the workplace. They should not endanger themselves nor ignore the statements of local officials about traveling during adverse weather."

A spokesman for IU said Tuesday the university was still evaluating whether to cancel classes.

— Reuters contributed to this report.